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How to Write an Essay

The following outline will help you when trying to write an essay of your own. You will also find an example of a persuasive essay.
A notebook with the words 'Essay' written on it. A blue pen is lying on the top of the notebook. Photo.
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Choose Your Topic

If your topic is not already assigned to you, choose one that really interests you.

Develop Your Approach to the Topic

Once you have chosen a topic, think of an approach to the topic or thesis statement. This is your main idea that you will further develop throughout your essay. It states what the essay will be about and your position on the issue. Think of what angle you want to argue from. Your approach to the topic may, for example, be formulated as a question or a statement in one or two sentences. If your topic is to analyze Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, you might pose this rhetorical question: Does love conquer all? A statement might be: Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare's most famous play.

The statement outlining your approach to the topic should be included both in the introduction to your essay and in its conclusion. Be clear, specific and concise.

Research Your Topic

Use the library or online academic data bases when researching your topic for central ideas. Jot down information and quotes, and always write down your sources and URLS.


Search for and evaluate the evidence for and against your basic claims. Are there any alternatives to your reasoning? Be critical.


Write down all your ideas on a sheet of paper. Try to be original. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the root of the problem?
  • Am I being biased?
  • Does my evidence support my claims?

The Writing Process

Outline Your Essay

Outline your essay by using your ideas from your brainstorming sheet. Make a mind map to visualize what you want to say. Use numbers 1,2,3, etc for headings (main ideas or topics) and a, b, c, for sub-topics. Remember that each heading will make up the main paragraphs in your essay. A good idea is to state your headings in sentence form. Let us visualize this.


The introduction to your essay introduces the main topic and your approach to it (thesis statement). It is a description of what you want to say. Start with some interesting information, fact, definition or quote that captures the attention of the reader. Don't be afraid to challenge the reader. Finish your introduction with a short summary of what your goal is for the essay.

Body of the Essay

Each paragraph should focus on one central idea, claim or argument. Use examples, facts, evidence or data to support each idea, claim or argument. You may want to begin each paragraph with the main topic or topic sentence from your outline that describes the point of the paragraph.

Use connecting phrases such as:

  • firstly, secondly, thirdly...
  • by comparison...
  • likewise
  • on the one hand.....on the other hand
  • in addition
  • however
  • nevertheless
  • therefore


A conlusion is a summary paragraph which summarizes the main points in your essay. It should recapitulate your introduction in an original way and restate the main idea of your essay. Final sentences might include the consequences or the implications of some action not being dealt with, a question, a future prediction or a call to act etc. Use phrases such as:

  • In conclusion...
  • to summarize
  • as a result
  • consequently

Example: Persuasive Essay

Here is an example of a persuasive essay about animal testing in the cosmetic industry.

Animal Testing in the Cosmetic Industry


Recent pictures in the news of caged animals with metal prongs holding their eyes open to test for chemicals have burned themselves into our memories. These painful tests have been supported by the cosmetic industry in the name of science for the past 40 years. The main question in 2009 is whether or not animals testing is still necessary?

While most animal rights activists will say absolutely not, many scientists who are constantly searching for chemicals in product that cause cancers in humans still say yes. My main questions are what alternatives are there and what can be done?


(Paragraph 1)

Firstly, while some scientists say that deodorants or talcum powder cause breast or ovarian cancer, others say that more research has to be done. Secondly, I feel that no matter how you look at it, we as consumers are being caught in the middle. Most of us use cosmetics in one form or other and we still need to feel safe. But is it right to inflict so much pain on innocent animals? Must all those poor animals suffer and die just to protect humans from harm and discomfort? What we must focus on, then, are the alternatives to animal testing.

(Paragraph 2)

What are the alternatives? The alternatives to animal testing that seem most logical would be those which replace animals in specific tests, therefore reducing the number of animals used. Another alternative is to make the tests better to lessen the animals’ suffering. A third alternative is to use human tissue or human skin cells and avoid using animals altogether. Hopefully, these alternatives will mark a new trend in the decline of animal testing in the future.

(Paragraph 3)

What can be done? Personally, I feel that violent methods used by extreme animal rights groups is not the answer. Burning down laboratories where caged animals are tested on or where humans lose their lives are only short term and inhuman. Setting animals free may cause them even more pain and suffering. Wouldn’t it be better to find ways where we as consumers can make a difference by refusing to buy animal tested products? In my opinion this would directly affect the cosmetic industry and force them to take action. Proof that some large scale action has already been taken was by the EU with the EU Cosmetic Directive which on March 11th, 2009 banned both animal testing and the marketing of animal tested products.


In conclusion, based on the new alternatives that test for harmful chemicals and the new initiatives made by the EU to ban the buying and selling of animal tested cosmetics, we can only hope that it will no longer be necessary to use animals in testing at all. As for us consumers, it is up to us to check that the products we use have not been tested on animals. Not only will we feel safe, but we will no longer have to feel guilty for making animals suffer when we buy cosmetic products.


Europa: Activities of the European Union – Summaries of Legislation, “Cosmetic Products: Composition, Labelling, Animal Testing”, (europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l21191.htm)

National Cancer Institute – Fact Sheet, “Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer”, (www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/ap-deo)

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, 2004 (www.ovariancancer.org/index.cfm)

The Humane Society of the United States, “Animal Testing: The Beginning of the End?”, (www.humanesociety.org/search.jsp)


Feder, Barnaby J. The New York Times, “Saving the Animals: New Ways to Test Products” September 12, 2007

CC BY-SASkrevet av Carol Dwankowski.
Sist faglig oppdatert 28.11.2018


Non-Fiction and Vocational Texts